IDEA Complaint Decision 06-001

On January 17, 2006, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Racine Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2004- 2005 and 2005-2006 school years:

  • Properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding non-physical behavior interventions, timeout, explanation of appropriate alternatives, a reward system, and on-going communication with the student’s parent including daily progress reports; and
  • Properly responded to the parent’s request to revise the student’s behavioral intervention plan.

The student started the 2004-2005 school year at a high school other than the school assigned to his home address under a district boundary exemption. On November 8, 2004, an IEP team meeting was held to develop an annual IEP, transition statement and determine placement for the student. The student’s mother and the student attended the meeting. The present level of educational performance informs staff that the student “has been diagnosed with ODD, ADHD, bipolar, MDD, severe Asthma, and is developing signs of schizophrenia with tics.” The present level of educational performance includes statements that the student is prone to react in a violent negative way when he is touched, is easily drawn into arguments, can be easily distracted, and exhibits signs of anxiety when placed in large group settings. In addition, the IEP indicates the parent would like to be contacted whenever there is a problem at school. Procedures for notifying the parent of the student’s progress, at least as often as parents of non-disabled students are notified about progress, are phone calls, notes home, progress reports, grade reports, and IEP review/revision. The student’s IEP provides the student will receive “verbal praise, timeouts, computer time and point system for positive behaviors and good work” for his behavior which impedes his learning or that of others. The student’s behavior intervention plan (BIP) states:

  1. Staff should never touch (student), even in an appropriate manner (i.e. hand shakes, pats on the back). (Student) can respond impulsively with physical aggression when he is touched.
  2. (Student) should receive a minimum of 2 redirects per incident.
  3. When (student) appears to be upset, he should be provided with a timeout space inside or outside of class (prefers pass to library per agreement). When (student) has cooled off or feels he is under control he will return to class. Also phone contact with his mother can be a calming influence and should be suggested first.
  4. Staff members will work with (student) to teach him appropriate behavior.
  5. When it is apparent that (student) is upset it is best to allow (student) step 2 until he is ready or able to positively express himself.
  6. (Student) can be suspended from school for inappropriate physical aggressions.
  7. Student) should be rewarded for positive choices, actions and behaviors.

The BIP also states, "Maintaining an open dialogue with home is essential to the success of (student). This will be accomplished thru phone calls, notes and conferences." How frequently contacts are to be made to the parent is not stated.

On December 1, 2004, the student was verbally aggressive with staff. According to an incident report written by a special education teacher, the student was given a suspension from school and the suspension was overturned by the district central office because the central office staff determined school staff had "violated the IEP." An undated progress report written by a different special education teacher describes a verbally profane incident concluding with the statement: "This teacher’s tools were extinguishing responses by ignoring them, providing positive, but undesired reinforces for language usage; and responsibility training, all on a backdrop of guided practice." The teacher progress report continues that the student’s behaviors became physical and escalated until he became exhausted and was unable to finish the day at school. The interventions used by the classroom teacher are not included in the student’s IEP and the student was not provided a timeout as described in the student’s IEP. During staff interviews it was determined that all staff provided verbal praise, redirects for behavior incidents, taught appropriate behavior, and rewarded the student for positive behavior. There is evidence that all staff had on-going communication with the student’s parent. Although it was not daily, this IEP does not require daily progress reports. Based upon staff interviews, timeouts, computer time, point system for positive behavior and good work, never touching the student, and timeout as described in the IEP were not consistently implemented by all staff. District staff interviews paired with incident reports and progress reports like the examples above evidence that the student’s IEP was not consistently implemented regarding non-physical behavior interventions, timeout, and a reward system by all staff between November 8, 2004, and February 15, 2005.

On February 15, 2005, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine placement for the student. The student’s mother and the student attended the meeting. The present level of educational performance has the same first four paragraphs from the November 8, 2004, IEP and these additional statements: "At this time (student) will receive a bus token per day for transportation from school to work, (parent) agrees to provide transportation from work to home. She would also like to be notified when (student) is sent to the 'pad' for any reason. IEP team reviewed boundary exemption it was decided that (student) would be more receptive to the self-contained program offered by his home district school." The student’s IEP provides that the student will receive "verbal praise, timeouts, computer time, and a point system for positive behaviors and good work" to address behavior which impedes his learning or that of others. The (BIP) repeats the six procedures listed above from the student’s November 8, 2004, IEP and adds the following two procedures:

  1. (Student) should be rewarded for positive choices, actions, and behaviors (verbal praises best done when others not around).
  2. (Parent) wants to be notified when timeout is used.

The BIP states, "Maintaining an open dialogue with home is essential to the success of (student). This will be accomplished thru phone calls, notes and conferences." How frequently contacts are to be made to the parent is not stated. On February 15, 2005, the student’s placement was changed to a different district high school.

On November 7, 2005, an IEP team meeting was held to develop an annual IEP and transition statement for the student. The student’s mother and the student attended the meeting. The present level of educational performance includes a statement that the student’s mother would like daily progress reports. The student’s IEP provides the student will receive "positive reinforcement, verbal redirection, self evaluation procedure, tangible rewards for on task behaviors, immediate feedback, consistent structure with limits and consequences and daily progress reports" to address his behavior which impedes his learning or that of others. The student’s BIP emphasizes intervention procedures one and two, in bold large font print. BIP intervention procedures are:

  1. Phone call to (student’s) mother...[who]would like to be informed of any problems with (student) so they can be addressed at home immediately.
  2. nonphysical interventions to avoid or diffuse target behaviors.
  3. Verbal redirection (Minimum of 2 redirects per minute).
  4. (Student) should be provided an isolated space away from others to take a timeout until he has cooled off whenever he’s showing signs of losing his cool.
  5. Staff members will follow up negative behaviors with explanation of appropriate alternatives for the future that are understandable to (student). This should only be attempted after he has had time to cool off.
  6. School suspension will be enforced when (student) behavior becomes violent.
  7. A reward system of some sort should be offered to encourage positive behaviors.

Base line of behavior, data collection procedures, and strategy for evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention plan stated are: "Staff Observations, Daily Progress Reports with incentives for completion, Discipline records in the form of office referrals." Specific coordinating efforts with parents regarding target behavior are: "Frequent and ongoing communication with (parent) is essential to (student) success. This will be done primarily through telephone calls, but will also include notes and /or conferences."

During the 2005-2006 school year, staff provided explanations of appropriate behavior alternatives, verbal praise, and whole class food or movie rewards. Staff did not document consistent use of the established reward system. Computers were not available to the student as a reward until January 21, 2006. Review of documents and interviews with school staff and the student’s mother confirm some progress reports were provided to the parent, but not on a daily basis, during the 2005-2006 school year. One of the student’s three special education teachers kept a log of contacts to the student’s parent. The log indicates communication was ongoing by the afternoon special education teacher who supervises his work placement. The student’s two morning special education teachers have records documenting ten phone calls to the student’s mother between September 9 and January 4. The student’s February 15, 2005, IEP is not specific on how frequently contacts had to be made. However, the November 7, 2005, IEP specifies daily progress reports and daily progress reports were not provided. The use of timeout as a behavior intervention is described in both IEPs as a student initiated activity for the student to cool off when he is showing signs of losing control. However, timeout was both student and staff initiated after classroom behavior incidents, some requests for timeout were denied or delayed, and there is no record of consistent use of timeout interventions. In January 2006 the student was touched on the shoulder by a hall monitor. This was observed by one of the student’s special education teachers who intervened and explained to the hall monitor that the student should never be touched. On another occasion, a classroom assistant kicked the student’s chair, and although the student was not touched, the student reacted in a manner similar to his response to being touched. During the 2005-2006 school year the student’s IEP was not implemented consistently by all staff regarding non-physical behavior interventions, timeout, a reward system, and on-going communication with the student’s parent including daily progress reports.

On November 21, 2005, and January 19 and 26, 2006, conferences were held with district staff and the student’s parent to address the parent’s complaints. On January 26 a parent advocate accompanied the student’s mother. The conference led to the decision to conduct an IEP team meeting as soon as possible to address the issues. On February 10, 2006, an IEP team meeting was conducted to review and revise the student’s IEP, develop a transition statement, determine continuing placement, and revise the BIP. The student’s mother and a parent advocate attended the meeting. A district emotional and behavior support person attended the meeting with a draft BIP which was included as part of the February 10, 2006, IEP. The district properly responded to the parent’s request to revise the student’s behavioral intervention plan at an IEP team meeting with the assistance of a behavioral specialist. However, the IEP team did not reach consensus on all items and another IEP team was scheduled to revise the student’s IEP.

The district is directed to send to the department a copy of the student’s IEP completed this spring within five days of developing the IEP. If the IEP has already been completed the district must send the IEP within five days of receiving this letter. In addition, the district must submit a corrective action plan (CAP) by May 19, 2006, to ensure that all staff members are knowledgeable about, and able to apply, the appropriate interventions, accommodations, and strategies as stated in the student’s IEP and to ensure that staff understand student’s unique disabilities throughout the school year.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST/SJP 4/13/06
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/jfd

For questions about this information, contact Patricia Williams (608) 267-3720